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Animal liberation movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the concept, see Animal rights

The animal liberation movement or animal rights movement, also sometimes called the animal personhood movement and animal advocacy movement, is the worldwide movement of activists, academics, lawyers, campaigns and organized groups who oppose and campaign against the use of non-human animals in research, as food, as clothing, or as entertainment.


Those who advocate animal rights usually boycott a number of industries that use animals. Foremost among these is factory farming, [2] which produces the majority of meat, dairy products, and eggs in Western industrialized nations. The transportation of farm animals for slaughter, which often involves their live export, has in recent years been a major issue of campaigning for animal-rights groups, particularly in the UK.

The vast majority of animal rights advocates adopt vegetarian or vegan diets [1]; they may also avoid clothes made of animal skins, such as leather shoes, and will not use products such as cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, or certain inks or dyes known to contain animal byproducts. Goods containing ingredients that have been tested on animals are also avoided where possible. Company-wide boycotts are common. The Procter & Gamble corporation, for example, tests many of its products on animals, leading many animal-rights supporters to boycott all of their products, including food like peanut butter.

Many animal rights advocates dedicate themselves to educating and persuading the public. Some organizations, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, strive to do this by garnering media attention for animal-rights issues, often using outrageous stunts or advertisements to obtain media coverage for a more serious message.

There is a growing trend in the American animal rights movement towards devoting all resources to vegetarian outreach. The 9.8 billion animals killed there for food use every year far exceeds the number of animals being exploited in other ways. Groups such as Vegan Outreach and Compassion Over Killing devote their time to exposing factory-farming practices by publishing information for consumers and by organizing undercover investigations.

A growing number of animal rights activists engage in direct action. This typically involves the removal of animals from infiltrated facilities that use them or the damage of property at such facilities in order to cause financial loss. A number of incidents have involved violence or the threat of violence toward animal experimenters or associates involved in the use of animals. Many of the ideas used by those who engage in direct action were developed by British activists. The UK is regarded as "Afghanistan for the growth of animal rights extremism throughout the world," Patti Strand of the American lobby group National Animal Alliance told the BBC. "The animal rights movement that we are dealing with in the United States is a direct import from the United Kingdom." [2]

More extreme activists have attempted blackmail and other illegal activities to help aid their cause, such as the intimidation campaign to close Darley Oaks farm, which involved hate mail, malicious phonecalls, hoax bombs, arson attacks and property destruction, climaxing with the theft of Gladys Hammond's body (the owners' mother-in-law) from a Staffordshire grave. Some of the groups like the ALF and ELF have been regarded as terrorist groups by countries like USA and UK with more than thousand attacks in one year causing £2.6m of damage to property in the UK alone prompting some experts to state that animal rights now tops the list of causes which prompt violence in the UK.[3] Most animal welfare groups condemned the attacks.

There are also a growing number of "open rescues," in which animal rights advocates enter businesses to remove animals without trying to hide their identities. Open rescues tend to be carried out by committed individuals who are willing to go to jail if prosecuted, but so far no factory-farm owner has been willing to press charges, perhaps because of the negative publicity that would ensue. However some countries like Britain have proposed stricter laws to curb animal extremists. [3]

Philosophical and legal aims

The movement aims to include animals in the moral community by putting the basic interests of non-human animals on an equal footing with the basic interests of human beings. A basic interest would be, for example, not being made to suffer pain on behalf of other individual human or non-human animals. The aim is to remove animals from the sphere of property and to award them personhood; that is, to see them awarded legal rights to protect their basic interests.

Animal rights advocates argue that animals appear to have value in law only in relation to their usefulness or benefit to their owners, and are awarded no intrinsic value whatsoever. In the United States, for example, state and federal laws formulate the rules for the treatment of animals in terms of their status as property. The Texas Animal Cruelty Laws apply only to pets living under the custody of human beings. They exclude birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other wild animals not owned by humans. The U.S. Animal Welfare Act excludes "pet stores ... state and country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, purebred dog and cat shows, and any fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences." The Department of Agriculture interprets the Act as also excluding cold-blooded animals, and warm-blooded animals not "used for research, teaching, testing, experimentation ... exhibition purposes, or as a pet, [and] farm animals used for food, fiber, or production purposes". [4]

Regarding the campaign to change the status of animals as property, the movement has seen success in two countries. Switzerland passed legislation in 1992 recognizing non-human animals as beings, not things. In 2002, rights for non-human animals were enshrined in the German constitution when the words "and animals" were added to the clause obliging the state to respect and protect the dignity of human beings. [5]

The Seattle-based Great Ape Project (GAP) — founded by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, the author of Animal Liberation (which is one of the bibles of the movement) — is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt its Declaration on Great Apes, which would see chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans included in a "community of equals" with human beings. The declaration wants to extend to the non-human apes the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture. [6]


The movement espouses a number of approaches to furthering the cause of animal rights. Some groups reject violence against persons, intimidation, threats, and the destruction of property: for example, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and Animal Aid. These groups concentrate on education and research, including carrying out undercover investigations of animal-testing facilities. There is evidence of prior cooperation between the BUAV and the ALF: for example, the BUAV used to donate office space for the use of the ALF in London in the early 1980s, and a BUAV executive introduced someone posing as a writer, but was actually an aspiring ALF activist, to Ronnie Lee who directed them to an ALF training camp in northern England. [4]. This activist, code-named Valerie, went on to found the United States ALF organization according to Newkirk.

Other groups do not condemn the destruction of property, or intimidation of those involved in what they perceive as animal abuse, but do not themselves engage in those activities, concentrating instead on education, research, media campaigns, and undercover investigations: for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA has also engaged in support of ALF activists who engage in destruction of property and intimidation of animal researchers. For example, PETA funds were directed to support the fines and legal fees imposed on Coronado after he was caught for criminal acts. [5][6][7]. Many federal law enforcement officers have openly speculated that ALF and PETA may be populated with identical personnel, the only difference being a setting sun and a ski mask.[8] Another ALF operative, JP Goodwin, was later hired by the Humane Society of the United States, despite their public policy against direct action. [7] [9]

A third category of activists operates using the leaderless resistance model, working in covert cells consisting of small numbers of trusted friends, or of one individual acting alone. These cells engage in direct action: for example by carrying out raids to release animals from laboratories and farms, using names like the Animal Liberation Front; or by engaging in the destruction of property and intimidation of people, using a campaign name like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

Activists who have carried out or threatened acts of physical violence have operated using the names Animal Rights Militia (ARM) and the Justice Department.

A November 13, 2003 edition of CBS News' 60 Minutes charged that "eco-terrorists," a term used by the United States government to refer to the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, are considered by the FBI to be "the country’s biggest domestic terrorist threat." [8] John Lewis, a Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism at the FBI, stated in a 60 Minutes interview that these groups "have caused over $100 million worth of damage nationwide", and that "there are more than 150 investigations of eco-terrorist crimes underway". [9] In September 2006, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act", legislation which would alllow federal authorities to "help prevent, better investigate, and prosecute individuals who seek to halt biomedical research through acts of intimidation, harassment, and violence." [10]

In hearings held on May 18, 2005 before a Senate panel, SHAC was also identified as "a U.S. terror threat." [10] In March 2003, SHAC began targeting a large pharmaceutical company. This company was targeted because SHAC accused it of doing business with HLS. The campaign against them began with sporadic letters demanding the company end its relationship with Huntingdon Life Sciences. Next, there were protests at company facilities. Then personal information of company employees, including home phone numbers and addresses, was posted on the internet. This led to numerous phone calls and faxes to the residences of executives, and “home visits” involving a number of activists protesting loudly outside employees’ homes, usually in the middle of the night. Sometimes, the home visits included spray painted messages like “Your job supports animal abuse - Drop HLS.” One of the company’s California facilities was damaged by vandalism with activists spray painting “______Kills Puppies” and splashing red paint on windows. Activists even sent a hearse to the home of one terrified employee to collect her body. They also tricked companies into calling employees to discuss their choice of cemetery plots.

In a second example SHAC targeted a small family business using similar methods. Their association with the SHAC target, HLS, was that they sent small apple samples to Huntingdon Life Sciences for residue testing therefore supporting HLS financially.

On August 28, 2003, the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences was elevated when two pipe bombs were set off outside of Chiron Corporation in Emeryville, Calif. Chiron had at one time been a client of Huntingdon Life Sciences and was listed as a target on SHAC’s Web site.

On September 26, 2003 a second set of pipe bombs, wrapped in nails, were set off at the Shaklee Corp. facility in Pleasanton, Calf. Shaklee is a subsidiary of a Japanese company that activists have tied to Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Public support

Animal People, an independent newspaper covering the international animal-protection and animal-rights movements, indicates that these issues are increasing in popularity with the public. Citing U.S. IRS (tax) form 990 numbers for 2004, the newspaper says that donations to animal rights groups increased by 40 percent from 2003 to 2004. For example:

  • The Humane Society of the United States (animal protection): revenues of $74 million, up 3 percent.
  • The Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (animal protection): revenues of $48.2 million, up an 11 percent.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (animal rights): $28.1 million, up 20 percent.
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (animal rights): $16 million, up from $12 million.

The Animal Liberation Front, Animal Defense League and Earth Liberation Front did not file 990s, but Animal People estimates the combined budgets of the more militant animal-rights organizations at more than $290 million in 2004, up from $207 million in 2003. [11] As the U.S. Justice department now labels these groups as "terrorist organizations"[12][13], under the USA PATRIOT Act, donations to them are federal crimes and punishable by substantial criminal penalties[14]. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of the US is specifically targeting at people involved in violence, arson, threat or any other forms of terrorism by prescribing several punishments.[15]

See also

  • Vegetarianism, Veganism
  • Vivisection
  • Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group


  1. ^ Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation, second edition, Random House, 1975; this edition 1990, p. 160ff.
  2. ^ Cox, Simon & Vadon, Richard. "How animal rights took on the world", BBC Radio 4, retrieved June 18, 2006.
  3. ^ Animal rights, terror tactics - BBC News
  4. ^ Newkirk, Ingrid. Free the animals. Lantern Books, 2000. ISBN 1-930051-22-0 }
  5. ^ PETA grant to Coronado support fund
  6. ^ PETA donation to Coronado's father
  7. ^ Coronado fined $2 million in restitution
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ HSUS policy on violence
  10. ^ "Senate Judiciary Committee Testimony


  • "How animal rights took on the world" by Simon Cox and Richard Vadon, BBC Radio 4, November 18, 2004
  • Taylor, A. Animals and Ethics. Broadview Press, 2003. ISBN 1-55111-569-7
  • "A Critique of the Kantian Theory of Indirect Moral Duties to Animals" by Jeff Sebo,, undated, retrieved September 4, 2005
  • "Burning Rage" by Ed Bradley, CBS 60 Minutes, November 5, 2005
  • "FBI, ATF address domestic terrorism", by Terry Frieden, CNN, May 19, 2005
  • Animal Liberation Through Trade Unions?

Further reading

  • Allegations of sexism within the animal liberation movement
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